Firstly, Theresa May was committed to a restrictive immigration regime, both as Home Secretary and Prime Minister, with a clear focus on reducing net migration to the UK regardless of the impact on business. Many of the restrictions she brought in have made it much harder for businesses to navigate the schemes and to secure the talent they need. Our new Prime Minister is likely to be more open to a liberal immigration system that provides flexibility for businesses and entrepreneurs with a focus on enabling movement of the talent and capital that enhances UK economic growth rather than acts as a constraint against it.
Secondly, stepping outside the EU single market and its “four freedoms” (including the freedom of movement of people) enables the UK to develop a “one world” immigration policy and a level playing field for all nations. EU nationals will no longer have preferential access to the UK labour market and other routes of entry and will therefore have to compete with US citizens for jobs and investment opportunities. Coupled with a more liberal immigration framework, this creates scope for businesses to transfer talent to the UK more easily without having to “stand in line” behind EU citizens. For US companies, the potential for a UK/ US free trade agreement also suggests that enhanced transatlantic mobility of talent will be a positive outcome to this exhausting process.
The signs are positive. Proposals in the government White Paper on “The UK’s future skills-based immigration system” include removing the current cap on the number of skilled workers eligible to enter the UK under Tier 2 and removing a requirement to advertise in the resident labour market before assigning a COS under Tier 2 (General).
Furthermore, plans to lower the threshold skill level for sponsorship under Tier 2, as well as potentially lower the minimum salary threshold, mean that more roles will fall within the Tier 2 sponsorship criteria, thereby creating flexibility for employers to transfer a wider range of key personnel.
The Government has also indicated an intention to reduce administrative burdens (such as reporting requirements) on sponsoring employers in order to make the system as “straightforward as possible” and to reduce the length of time to sponsor an overseas national to work in the UK.
We hope that the new government will also review the Start-Up and Innovator categories and develop new schemes for international entrepreneurs to contribute to the growth of the new “independent” Britain.
Anticipating these changes will however require patience. The Government has begun a 12-month national consultation exercise prior to refining proposals into a legal framework to be developed in 2020 and implemented in 2021.
What can we expect this autumn?
The only certainty for Q4 2019 is more uncertainty. Until Brexit is resolved one way or another it will be difficult for multi-national companies to put in place firm global mobility plans.
At the time of writing all Brexit options remain on the table including: a hard Brexit, a soft Brexit with a ratified withdrawal agreement, another delay for a General Election or further bilateral negotiations.
Regardless of this uncertainty, stakeholders can take solace from some straightforward facts as far as immigration is concerned:
- The Tier 2 sponsorship regimes will remain in place at least until the Government has refined plans for a new post-Brexit immigration framework (currently planned for January 2021). Non-EU nationals should not therefore be impacted by immigration uncertainty in a no-deal scenario.
- EU nationals will continue to be able to use e-gates at the airports and be granted entry automatically as before.
- The Government is committed to transitional arrangements leading to the post-Brexit immigration framework regardless of whether a withdrawal agreement is ratified.
- In a hard Brexit scenario, the European Temporary Leave to Remain (ETLR) will act as a transitional scheme, under domestic UK law, providing for EU nationals to have deemed permission to enter the UK and work for a three-month period. Prior to the end of this period they will be required, if they wish to remain and work longer, to apply for a three year extension of stay with work permission (ETLR).
To this extent, it is hoped that a no deal Brexit will be sufficiently managed to maintain international mobility of talent and capital until the UK finally has a new settlement in its relations with the EU and has implemented a “one world” immigration policy.
For further information contact: